Attavante degli Attavanti, Martyrdom of the Seven Hebrew brothers, c. 1450
Mount Calvary Church
A Roman Catholic Parish
The Personal Ordinariate of S. Peter
Eutaw Street and Madison Avenue
Rev. Albert Scharbach, Pastor
Dr. Allen Buskirk, Choirmaster
Midori Ataka, Organist
Sunday, November 10, 2019
8:00 A.M. Said Mass
10:00 A.M. Sung Mass
Brunch to follow in the undercroft
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, setting by Joel Raney
Kingsfold, Setting by James Biery
Requiem aeternam, Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Requiem aeternam dona eis. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Rest eternal grant unto them. And may light perpetual shine upon them. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord.
In 1935 Howells’ son Michael died at the age of nine, a tragedy which inevitably cast an immense shadow over the composer’s life. Until quite recently it was thought that the Requiem was composed in response to Michael’s death, but we now know that Howells composed it in 1932 or 1933, originally intending it for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. For some reason the music was never sent to King’s, and its existence remained unknown until its eventual publication in 1980, only three years before the composer’s own death. After the tragic events of 1935, Howells increasingly associated the Requiem with his lost son, so much so that a few years later, when he was composing Hymnus Paradisi, a work specifically intended as Michael’s memorial and without doubt Howells’ masterpiece, he used substantial parts of the earlier Requiem, re-scoring it for soloists, large chorus and orchestra.
One of the earliest and most fundamental influences on Howells was Gloucester Cathedral, with its immense, vaulted spaces and glorious east window. Howells wrote of it as ‘a pillar of fire in my imagination.’ He consciously set out to mirror these essentially architectural elements of spaciousness and luminosity in his music, and these characteristics can clearly be heard in the Requiem. Significantly, the main climax of the work occurs at the words ‘et lux perpetua luceat eis’ – ‘let light perpetual shine upon them’ – a symbol of hope and comfort, confirmed in the closing pages by the final release of tension and the gradual transition to a simple, peaceful D major.
The souls of the righteous, Geraint Lewis (b. 1958)
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and the pain of death shall not touch them. To the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to perish, but they are in peace.
Geraint Lewis was born in Cardiff in 1958 and educated at St John’s College, Cambridge. On graduating he was appointed to the music staff of the University of Wales at Bangor, working with Professor William Mathias. The anthem The souls of the righteous is subtitled ‘In memoriam William Mathias’ and was composed for the Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Mathias at St Paul’s Cathedral on 20 November 1992. The composer explains:
This work was suggested by a request from Nina Walker for an All Souls’ anthem for 1992. I started work before Christmas 1991 and showed the part that I had completed to William Mathias during one of my many visits to see him in Anglesey. He liked what he heard and urged me to complete it. I held back however and put it to one side. A month later Mathias was diagnosed as having terminal cancer and given six months to live. I visited him every other week during this time (travelling from Monmouth to Menai Bridge) and he died on 29 July 1992. During this time we put his manuscript in order and tidied up his catalogue and I helped him with his last works.
We then planned a Service of Thanksgiving for his life and works in St Paul’s Cathedral. John Scott suggested that I write a work for the service (which otherwise consisted entirely of Mathias’s music—much of it with St Paul’s connections) and so I went back to my setting of The souls of the righteous and completed it as a tribute to my closest friend and colleague. The text is from Wisdom and is variously a collect for All Saints—eve of All Souls. Mathias was born on 1 November 1945—All Saints’ Day—and All Souls’ Day is 2 November.
The Son of God goes forth to war (Words at #549; Tune: KINGSFOLD). The author, Reginald Heber, was born in 1783 into a wealthy, educated family. He was a bright youth, translating a Latin classic into English verse by the time he was seven, entering Oxford at 17. After his graduation he became rector of his father’s church for 16 years. He was appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823 and worked tirelessly for three years until the weather and travel took its toll on his health and he died of a stroke. The first reading is about the martyred Maccabees; we too live in an age of martyrs: the Coptic martyrs beheaded by the sea, dying with the name of Jesus on their lips; the Missionaries of Charity slain in the home for the aged in Aden; the priest Jacques Hamel whose throat was slit at the altar as he said mass. They followed in His train.
After having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex, England (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906).
#429 Day by Day (SUMNER) is a prayer by St. Richard, bishop of Chichester. The tune is by Arthur Henry Biggs (1906-1954), organist at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Cathedral in Spokane, Washington.
One night in London, Thomas Olivers (1725—1799), a follower of John Wesley, was attracted to a service in a Jewish synagogue, where he heard a great singer, Myer Leoni, sing an ancient Hebrew text in solemn, plaintive mode. Olivers wrote a hymn to that tune: The God of Abraham Praise, which is a paraphrase of the ancient Hebrew Yigdal, or doxology. In the 12th century, Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides codified the 13 articles of the Jewish Creed. These articles of the Jewish faith were later shaped into the Yigdal around 1400 by Daniel ben Judah, a judge in Rome.
Social media shoves us all up in each other’s faces in unprecedented ways. Where national politics was once metered in through newspapers and the evening news, now people of all ages have access to global details of immeasurable variety. Through the internet, we can see what friends on other continents had for dinner. We have a finger incessantly on the pulse of global events, from terrorism to natural disasters to scandals in the Catholic Church we never wanted to admit happen.
To whatever extent this data dump causes constant anxiety, and constant anxiety upsets brain chemical equilibrium, I have not quite figured out how this torrent of affairs will play out. When I manage to get my nose out of my screen and step away, however, I often think of the Jewish mother of the seven sons in Second Book of Maccabees. She looked upon a different world, but I feel a camaraderie with her.
Her story goes back to about 168–166 years before the birth of Christ. Her people, the Maccabees, led a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, a flourishing center of Hellenistic culture. The state was ruled by Antiochus IV who as king named himself Epiphanes, a Greek name for “god manifest.” Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the god-king, wanted to take Judaea from Egypt so he could unite a vast and diverse empire and create a religion for his people in the same spirit of Greek civilization espoused by Alexander the Great.
The Jewish people of the Maccabees held a worldview incompatible with Antiochus’s vision. Their beliefs were simple and based the monotheistic laws of God passed down by Moses. They rejected Hellenism. They rejected nature worship. They did not deify kings of vast empires. They worshiped the Creator of the universe.
Fearing disobedience, Antiochus sought to eradicate the Jewish religion. He forbade Jewish religious practices, such as the offering of sacrifices, the observance of the Sabbath, and circumcision, and he punished anyone who would not submit to his authority. The Maccabees mother and her seven sons were arrested for refusing to eat the flesh of swine. The Bible story begins when the king had them beaten.
“What do you intend to ask and learn from us?” the eldest son said to the king. “For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.” This made the king angry. He ordered large caldrons to be heated in fire, cut out the tongue of the eldest, scalped him, chopped off his hands and feet, and had the boy fried alive, while still breathing, right in front of his mother and brothers.
The next son likewise refused to eat pork, and he too met the same fate as his brother. As he took his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.” The third son even stuck out his tongue to be cut off and stretched out his hands to be butchered because he knew he would get them back again.
Before the fourth son was murdered, he spoke of resurrection too. The fifth spoke of his people and told the king that he may have power among men, but he would someday perish while the people of God would not be forsaken. The sixth son warned the king that he would not be spared punishment if he attempted to fight against God.
What did the mother do while her sons were murdered one by one? The narrator says she bore it admirably with honor and courage because of her hope in the Lord. Her “woman’s reasoning” was thus to her sons:
I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again . . .
With only the seventh son left, Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to back off. He promised the mother to make the boy a rich and happy man, even a friend, if he would pledge allegiance to Antiochus. The king pleaded with the mother to counsel the son to save himself, but the mother bent to her last child and urged him in her native tongue to look at Heaven and Earth and see that God made everything out of nothing, including mankind. She told him to have no fear and join his brothers until they were all united again.
The seventh son interrupted his mother and turned to the king. “What are you waiting for?” Then he gave a magnificent speech about the almighty, all-seeing God of his Fathers and the wrath that would come upon the nation. Nevertheless, the god-manifest king, in the name of the creative, progressive, and the great spirit of Hellenism, punished the last son more cruelly than all his brothers. The mother? The scripture just says she died, but it does not matter how. There is no worse fate for a mother than to watch her children suffer such torture.
For a long time, this story made me angry. Why did she not tell her kids to eat the damn pork? Seriously? I eat bacon all the time. It is not like eating pork is a deadly sin.
The murders were not about food though. They were about power. The flesh of swine was only a symbolic scapegoat. The more I thought about that mother, the more I realized that we are alike in many ways. For one, we both have seven children, though five of mine are daughters. My children have not been brutally murdered all in one day, nothing like that, but sometimes it seems that as a Catholic mother I too face a culture of absurdities at the hands of humans who think themselves manifest gods. I look out at the world through the internet, and I get scared. When I teach the countercultural moral expectations of the Church to my kids, sometimes I think I am making about as much sense as telling them to die before eating pork.
As hard as I try to hang on to my babies, some grown, some adolescent, some still young, I worry that they will be consumed and destroyed by modern monsters like drug addiction, suicide, cutting, depression, sexual abuse, bullying, and nihilism, in other words, being fried alive in a cauldron so slowly they will not even realize they are dying. And I do not want to bear it admirably with honor and courage and whispering advice, because of hope in the Lord! I do not want to stand there and watch them perish. I want to panic. I want to fight.
I have this thing I do. I imagine that I sit down with the Maccabees mother at a table suspended above time and space in one of those blank white rooms of science fiction dreamery. We each have coffee, she in her robes and sandals and me in my black turtleneck and boots.
“How did you stay so calm?” I ask her.
“Like I said,” she replies, “the order in nature and life itself make it obvious that God is in charge.” The Maccabees mother, I always think, has an astonishingly scientific worldview.
“I get it,” I say. “You view nature the same way a chemist does. You think that if the Creator of the world can make atoms and swirl them all together to produce the sun, clouds, trees, and the children in our womb, then he knows what he is doing, and if we keep the faith everything will be okay in the end.”
She nods and says, “Atoms?”
I say, “Yes, the elements, like you said, within each of us that God sets in order. Do you want me to tell you about them?” She, of course, does.
I tell her how there is now evidence that elementary particles expanded from a singularity about 14 billion years ago and that elements form in stars. I show her a periodic table and explain that for a long time the universe was just the first two, 75% hydrogen and 25% helium. We identify elements by the number of protons they have. Protons are small positively charged particles in the nucleus (center) of the atom. Hydrogen has one proton. Helium has two because two hydrogens fuse to make helium (1+1=2). Astronomers now measure about 74 percent of ordinary matter in the universe to be hydrogen, 24 percent helium, and the remaining two percent the rest of the known elements.
She wants me to tell her where the other elements came from.
“They continue to form in stars as more nuclei fuse,” I say. “Hydrogen nuclei fuse to produce helium and release energy, making the core of the star hot and dense. This is how a star, such as our sun, spends most of its life. When the hydrogen is nearly gone, the core contracts, and helium nuclei with two protons fuse to produce beryllium, which has four protons (2+2=4). If beryllium collides with another helium nucleus, carbon forms. Carbon has six protons (4+2=6). If carbon fuses with another helium, oxygen forms with eight protons (6+2=8). Because helium has a unique stability, it hangs around long enough for these elements to form, hence there is a curiously high abundance of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen—the elements necessary for life on Earth. Heavier elements fuse until the star cores are mostly iron. The stars collapse under the gravity until they explode. Elements heavier than iron fuse in the final moments of the stars’ lives.”
Her mind is blown, and she knows where this is going. “And all these elements come from Heaven to the center of the world to make Earth?”
“Well,” I say, “the Earth is not the center of the cosmos but rather a planet orbiting in a solar system whose sun is a star in an arm of a spiral cluster of 200 billion stars that make up a galaxy among billions of galaxies.” I say that it is amazing the whole universe seems to exist for us on this seemingly insignificant speck.
I tell her that a Greek philosopher named Democritus, who lived 200 years before the Maccabees revolution, used the word ἄτομον (atomon) to describe indivisible particles. I tell her that Democritus taught that everything is the result of natural laws, and we agree that this is a faulty conclusion because—call it a woman’s reasoning—if everything is just matter, then we still do not have the answer for who made the matter, who prescribed the order, or who made life.
I recount the discoveries in only the last two hundred years of humanity, John Dalton, J. J. Thompson, Max Plank, Robert Millikan, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, Louis de Broglie, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger.
I explain that today properties of elements throughout the universe are understood as the result of electrons, the negatively charged particles, in defined orbitals around the nucleus much like musical strings vibrating together in unison in a symphony. I tell her about quantum numbers and how they describe the relationship between electrons and protons. I tell her how this knowledge allows us to master nature and develop technology, that we can now communicate around the globe with satellites and send emails, photos, and movies because we can control electrons so well.
I tell her how the very oxygen molecules her sons breathed came from photosynthesis in chloroplasts that evolved from bacteria.
I tell her how we know a great deal about how children form in the womb, how we think of the beginning of a new individual as a cellular conversation between gametes made of elements—
She interrupts me, “You mean life on Earth is interconnected at the atomic level, drawn from the entire cosmos since the beginning of time?”
At the same time we say, “Praise God!”
Then she asks me why anyone in my time worries at all—and I tell her that I guess we just forget to appreciate the order in nature that is right in front of us when we use the tools to access the information that leads us to despair. She thinks that because of modern science we have more reason today to trust in the faithfulness of God the Creator than people in her time ever did. And I agree.
Then I tell the Maccabees mother the good news, that in the fullness of time a Savior came, Christ, the king of the Jews, an embryo formed in the womb of his mother, made of elements, our Lord, the perfect human, both in His divinity and His humanity, truly God and truly man, begotten of the Father, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary . . .
She finishes, “ . . . according to the purpose of the Creator who works all things according to his will.” She knew all of this already, of course, including the part about atoms.
I tell the mother of the Maccabees that Mary also watched her Son die a senseless and brutal death at the hands of people who did not see the bigger picture, and that he did, in fact, conquer death, that he rose and ascended into heaven, and that Mary, given to us by Christ, wants her children united with her forever too because she is the Holy Mother of All the Living. I smile and say that Heaven and Earth resound the hymn for this queen, all creation echoing: Salve Regina!
Then I tell her I have to go and thank her for teaching me that if our hearts and minds are large enough to hope, we can trust that the whole of creation is forever held in the hands of its loving Creator. She reminds me that her people went on to lead a fight for justice and that I will figure out my purpose too. She tells me to have no fear and prays with me until we meet again. “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Stacy A. Trasancos is the Director of Publications for Bishop Joseph Strickland’s St. Philip Institute in Tyler, TX. She has a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College & Seminary.